Following a 17-month probe into potential NCAA rules violations, Rutgers University paid a law firm $205,000, records obtained this week by NJ Advance Media revealed.
In August 2015, Rutgers retained Richard J. Evrard of Bond, Schoeneck and King -- a law firm that deals exclusively with NCAA issues -- as outside counsel to advise the university's office of general counsel on potential rules violations.Chris Ash addresses NCAA notice of allegations
Documents obtained by NJ Advance Media through the university's Open Public Records Act office show the Overland Park, Kan.-based law firm worked on the Rutgers football investigation for a total of 203 days and billed Rutgers for 609 hours for its legal work.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi declined comment through a university spokesperson for this report. In September 2015, Barchi said Evrard's firm would serve as a liaison between the university and the NCAA after the school self-reported a potential violation to the college athletics governing body's enforcement staff in light of then-Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood's improper contact with a faculty member regarding a student-athlete's academic performance.
Rutgers officials previously stated that Bond, Schoeneck and King would furnish a report to Rutgers to determine if NCAA rules had been violated.
But that report wasn't made public before or after the NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations that details seven possible violations, including allegations involving drug use by players, improper recruiting tactics and football officials who allegedly ignored rules and lied to investigators, in December.
While there are a wide range of penalties for what's been designated as a Level II infractions case, Rutgers officials are hopeful that since their compliance department cooperated fully in the NCAA's joint investigation with Evrard's legal team, the football program will escape significant punishments, including a reduction of scholarships and/or a postseason ban.
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The invoices obtained by NJ Advance Media, which are labeled "football investigation,'' also give a glimpse of how serious Rutgers officials were in trying to get out in front of the allegations.
Records show Evrard traveled to Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence and various towns in New Jersey (including New Brunswick, Morristown and Red Bank) since December 2015.
On Aug. 24, 2015 - two weeks after top university officials began their internal investigation into Flood's conduct -- Evrard had an hour-long telephone conference with Rutgers officials, the records reveal.
The following day, on Aug. 25, 2015, NJ Advance Media first reported the university's office of ethics and compliance was investigating Flood.
Records show Evrard spent the next six days investigating the issue, charging the university $9,943.75 for 28 3/4 hours of work. Rutgers officials said Evrard's legal team was hired to handle certain fact-finding aspects of the investigation shortly after the university retained the Florham Park-based law firm Saiber to determine whether Flood's improprieties violated university bylaws.
A Rutgers spokesman in September 2015 told NJ Advance Media that both law firms were retained at the university's standard rate of $215 per hour, but Evrard's rate was $365 per hour while his associates billed Rutgers anywhere from $110 to $275 per hour.
Evrard, who didn't respond to an interview request this week, told NJ Advance Media in October 2015 his firm has represented numerous schools in matters relating to NCAA infractions and compliance for more than two decades.
In August, CBSSports.com reported Evrard was called in for help North Carolina in the NCAA's ongoing academic fraud case.
Rutgers cleaned house following the 2015 season, firing both Flood and athletics director Julie Hermann on Nov. 29, 2015. In announcing the dismissals during a media teleconference that night, Barchi was pressed on the investigation into potential NCAA violations.
"We did a very thorough and deep internal investigation using outside resources that were impartial as you know,'' Barchi said. "We released everything related to that investigation to the public. That was as transparent as I think you will find anywhere. There is no additional factual investigation that we are undertaking related to this."
But records show Barchi's statement to be misleading. Two days after Rutgers fired Hermann and Flood, the university's office of general counsel conferred with Bond, Schoeneck and King on Dec. 1 for four hours, continuing a process that included 33 1/2 hours of legal service in December 2015 alone.
Asked for a clarification to Barchi's Nov. 29, 2015, statement, university spokeswoman Karen Smith said the Rutgers President had no comment at this time.
Although university officials declined to say whether Bond, Schoeneck and King will continue to assist Rutgers through the appeals process, records show Evrard and colleague Christopher Schoemann working to prepare a draft report for 14 hours over six days after the NCAA presented Rutgers with a Notice of Allegations.
As a matter of procedure, Rutgers had 90 days from Dec. 19 to respond to the NCAA allegations and then the NCAA has 60 days to respond to Rutgers' response. Rutgers is expected to be called to present its defense before the Committee on Infractions at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis at some point early in the summer.
Keith Sargeant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KSargeantNJ. Find NJ.com Rutgers Football on Facebook.
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